Paper short abstract:
Peter Singer claims to give an objective and non-speciesist way of showing that the lives of ‘normal human beings’ are of greater value than those of either ‘marginal’ human beings or animals. I argue that his work betrays an underlying anthropocentric speciesism.
Paper long abstract:
Although it is generally agreed that 'speciesism' - usually defined as a prejudice against creatures not of one's own species - is analogous to racism and sexism and therefore unacceptable, the work of many philosophers who write on the animals issue seems to honour the letter rather than the spirit of the principle of unbiased objectivity. This is especially evident in discussions of the 'value of life' put forward by such writers as Peter Singer, Thomas Reagan and others, whose arguments reveal a prejudice that is even more pervasive than speciesism. Although the charge of speciesism is avoided by agreement that the lives of some animals are 'more valuable' than those of some humans, the criteria for inclusion in the category of 'normal human being' or 'person', taken as the paradigm of the valuable life, are such as to exclude not only animals but such a wide range of humanity that it seems reasonable to interpret this use of 'normal human being' as 'person like us' (the 'we' perhaps referring to the writer and his readers), so that speciesism is replaced by what might be called 'us-ism'.
Discussing speciesism: the moral failings that mark human relationships to non-human animals